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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

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Adam Jahnke - Main Page


1980 (2007) - Blue Underground

How do you follow up an artistic high-point like Suspiria? For too many filmmakers, the temptation is to try and do exactly what you just did. And in many ways, that's just what Dario Argento did with Inferno. But to give credit where its due, he did it in a characteristically ambitious manner.

I don't know if Suspiria was intended as the first part of a trilogy from the start. It certainly became one with the release of the second chapter, Inferno. The story opens in New York as Irene Miracle discovers a book entitled The Three Mothers. The book is written in Latin by an architect who claims to have built homes for three unspeakably evil witches, one in New York, one in Rome, and a German one we've already seen in Suspiria.

She becomes fascinated by the legend and convinced that her building is the New York home of Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness. She writes her brother (Leigh McCloskey), a music student in Rome, who arrives in the city too late to save his sister.

Expanding the mythology of Suspiria into the Three Mothers trilogy appears to have been a daunting task for Argento, so much so that the trilogy went unfinished until just this year (The Mother of Tears premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival and should be arriving stateside sometime next year). Inferno is certainly a weaker film than Suspiria. For one thing, it's much less focused. I'm still not even sure who the main character is or even if there is one. There are effective moments but they seem to be randomly strung together. We spend so little time with any of the leads that it's impossible to care what happens to them. And beyond the oft-repeated story of the Three Mothers, there really isn't an on-camera character who seems to be responsible for the horrific events. Just Argento's usual use of gloved hands and an increasingly bizarre stable of supporting characters, almost all of whom turn out to be red herrings.

Despite Inferno's many problems, it's still sort of entertaining. Some of the sequences are terrific, especially the reveal of McCloskey's murdered girlfriend in her apartment. Keith Emerson's score can't quite match the work done by Goblin for Suspiria but does offer at least one classic track, the insanely over-the-top Mater Tenebrarum.

Blue Underground re-presents Anchor Bay's previous DVD release of Inferno. Both video and audio are very good, if not quite as stellar as on Suspiria. Extras include an introduction to the movie by Argento, an 8-minute featurette featuring interviews with Argento and assistant director Lamberto Bava, a still gallery, bios for both Dario and Claudio Argento and Daria Nicolodi and the trailer. Not jam-packed but not bad, either.

Anybody hoping for Suspiria II will be disappointed in Inferno. For that matter, if you're looking for a relatively coherent narrative, you should probably move on. But it has its charms, especially for Argento cultists. Allow Inferno to grow on you, ignore the fact that what you're watching doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and you may be able to appreciate its look and set-piece sequences.

Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/C

Adam Jahnke
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Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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